Feb. 20, 2018, © Leeham Co.: Toulouse: Airbus will deliver its first A350-1000 to launch customer Qatar Airways within hours, making the end to a nearly two-month wait for the ceremonial handover.
The aircraft was legally delivered to Qatar in the closing days of 2017, but issues with the QSuite interior held up the hand-over until today. The airplane will enter revenue service between Doha and London Heathrow Airport.
Earlier today, Marisa Lucas, Head of A350 XWB Marketing, extolled the virtue of the A350-1000 and, in a response to a question, dismissed the coming Boeing 777-9 as a threat to the -1000. She also waved off the prospect, for now, of stretching the -1000 into a “2000” that would directly challenge the -9.
Today is supposed to be about the delivery of the A350-1000, but a reporter asked Lucas whether Airbus is concerned about the 777-9, which is planned to enter service in 2020.
Lucas dismissed the 777-9 as a “compromise” airplane, using old and new features. The new ones—the wing, engines and fuselage stretch—add weight to the airplane, she said.
A fully loaded A350-1000 weighs as much as an empty 777-9, she said. The -1000 is 15% more economic than the 777-9, she says. (Boeing claims the 777-9 is more efficient than the -1000.)
Although the 777-9 nominally carries 40 more passengers than the -1000, Lucas said going to 10-abreast in the -1000 will even the seat count, though at the expense of comfort.
Dismissive of an A350-1000 stretch
Lucas also dismissed the prospect of stretching the A350-1000 into an “1100” 0r “2000” that would have the same capacity of the 777-9.
Airbus studied the prospect, she said, but there are no plans to do so.
Media was given a tour of the A350 Final Assembly Line as well.
Airbus is ramping the production rate up to 10/mo by the end of this year. LNC understands that Airbus will go to 13/mo next year.
Airbus has a different assembly philosophy than Boeing for its wide-body airplanes.
Boeing has an in-line production system for its 777 and 787, with moving elements on each. Airbus assembles the A350s side-by-side, a process of long-standing.
Airbus prefers the side-by-side in part to avoiding stopping the entire line in the event there is a significant problem on one plane in the lines. If one occurs in the side-by-side production, Airbus can, if needed, back the airplane out of the position and work on it elsewhere, replacing the plane with another.
The Airbus method also enables “stuffing” the fuselage with large components that otherwise might have to be inserted disassembled through passenger doors, only to be reassembled once inside the airplane.